Wednesday, November 27, 2002

I've just finished reading the latest Anne Lamott novel, "Blue Shoe," about yet another single mother and her family in crisis, liberal politics, betrayal, and feeling, feeling, feeling, kitschy phrases like comparing the sound of a digiridoo to an eggplant with a light shining behind it. Very Apropo. Very Lamott. Her characters remind me of what I imagine Susie Hofer to be -- all twisted, perplexed, confused, messy and hypochondriacal, but with a healing grace and faith. I haven't heard from her since she canceled dinner. Wrote her an e-mail. Called. Any further attempts at contact would be pestering.

Funny. When I think about Susie I am reminded, for no apparent reason, of a place from childhood -- the view of a grassy area from Jeremy Powers's backyard. Not far from the backstop of the softball field in the church yard. The same backstop constructed of old telephone poles, two-by-fours and chain link fence. Kind of like how Claude Debussy reminds me of the banks of Spring Creek behind a ranch house on the northeast corner of the busy Alpine-Spring Creek intersection. But at least I can pin that to an event. I discovered Debussy listening to library tapes on my daily drive to work at Millward Brown, and I passed that ranch home en route. I have no direct memory associations with Susie and this small grassy area that always comes to mind when I think of her. Maybe it was a favorite place of hers from her own childhood and the mojo vibe of that place was picked up by my unconscious. If she ever contax me again, I'll ask her.

I listen to American Beauty, the only Grateful Dead album I own. Remember back in college days I wrote an angry column about token girlfriends, loud car stereos, and my contempt for the Dead. I wrote I was glad tye-dye dress tie hawking drug addict Jerry Garcia was taking a dirt knap. Had a hippie fella, Ted Polack-last-name, pointed a finger at my chest in photography class and said, "You're such an asshole!" Not a passive Deadhead Ted. It is the most emotional and confrontational reaction I've ever received about something I wrote. Even worse than the group of black women who ripped me a new one when I criticized the Million Women March. Ahh, college days. I miss the hoopla. But in a reversal of most people's political maturation process, I grow more liberal the older I get. Comes from my love of trail and a deep-seated conviction that the pro-business GOP-heads want to blacktop and strip mall the wild places I hold so dear. Of course I know Dems are just as bad. All politicians go where the money is. I wish I could take back the comments I made about Jerry Garcia. American Beauty's a great album. Also like that Touch of Grey album, released when I was in junior high. The Dead are very trail. Down home, laid back. Still, jam bands bore me after a while. And I've long since grown tired of the company of sedentary potheads. Most Deadheads are bearded anachronisms. But my woman looks good wearing beads and a peasant skirt.

Just read in the Register Star about the 7-year-old second grader who died of asthma complications last week, the same day his little brother Isaiah cut his lip open in my gym class. A double indignity that day for little Isaiah, a day he will never forget. An excerpt from the editorial:

"[A]sthma is a growing and serious problem across the nation. From 1980 to 1994, the latest figures available, the number of children with asthma rose 74 percent. Asthma accounts for 14 million missed school days each year. Martinez’s death came as a shock to his classmates, who were playing with the 7-year-old just hours before he collapsed. In school and out, many people aren’t aware that asthma can be debilitating, even life-threatening. In 1998, 246 of the 5 million American children with asthma died."

The editorial is no great shakes. Informs readers that deaths from asthma are rare, but people should regard the disease with seriousness. One question not answered is, Why has asthma increased so dramatically? Isn't our air quality better than it was 20 years ago? Like all medical questions, the answer is as multi-faceted as each patient profile. My pet theory is too many kids are stuck indoors, don't get exercise, and/or are living around smokers. Get your kids outside. Open your windows.

Esther's got the beginnings of a cold, and this morning she woke up and blew her nose. It sounded like she did it right next to my ear. I dreamed it was a big snake about to attack and woke with an adrenaline start and violent rustle of bed sheets. What the hell was that?! I said. What time is it? Quarter to one. God, I thought you were a snake. Esthers grabs a handful of pink toilet paper off a roll, turns her back to me and blows again. She falls back asleep. I stay awake and listen to my pulse calm as the fear chemicals work their way through me. Upstairs neighbor Erik has water running, for what seems like forever. Oh, yeah, I remember. He has a dishwasher. Where does he fit it in his small kitchen? I listen to him cough through the bathroom vent. A smoker with a cold kind of cough, deep and wracking. God, the air is dry, I think. And I've got the nasty taste of rotten phlegm in the back of my throat. I better not be getting a cold again. I'm surrounded by sickness.

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

The conqueror is vanquished, as all eventually are. The meek shall inherit the earth for they are cockroaches. A mind is a terrible thing to boggle. It is better to bless than cursive. Stoom boddle boondoggle.

My legs are slowly going numb. I'm supremely fatigued, but awake and alive, too. Jus' bleedin' bloggin' Benny Hill show. It is 7:45 p.m. of a late November Tuesday. Today's movie was "Wonderland," a British independent flick filmed, at times, in grainy Super 8 stock. It is a story told in vignettes about three sisters and their family in London. One is a pregnant, one a mother who goes out on the town, the third single and looking. Then there's the mother and father in a loveless marriage. The mother poisons a neighbors dog because it barks all the time. What sticks with me are the sped up scenes of the characters moving through the streets, lights blurry streamers, and the images of London streets, all noise and people everywhere. Makes me think of my Parisian brother. How does he handle the congestion? It would eat me alive, yet the sea tide of humanity interests and compels me.

The dumbwaiter's engine is almost shot. One big bucket of ice will send the box tumbling to dusty floor. Her name was Sharon and she could never shut up. A veritable machine gun barrage of verbiage. Stoom curdle yurt house.

I thought about attachment issues again. About how my father did not live at home until I was 8. And how my mother was very busy working three jobs and hardly had time for any of us, much less me. And also how Mom and Dad placed no expectations on me, never asked about homework. And how my older brothers played endless practical jokes on me. Another brother beat me up, once kicked me in the balls so hard I pissed blood. I think about how worried I get if Esther is running more than 10 minutes late, how I run through this scenario of a fiery death, and how I am almost compelled to go out and look for her. I thought about that time all the neighbor kids were invited to a birthday party except for me, and how I hung out in my yard and cried until Hope Bredesen walked me over. And then the birthday girl told me in front of everybody, "You weren't invited!" And how that happened more than once because I was a hyperactive child and parents didn't want to deal with me. I remember finally figuring out how to be cool, and then consciously forsaking it throughout my junior high school years. Instead, reveling in being "other," being booger. And how that has shaped who I am now. More blessing than not. I'm independent-minded, make lifestyle choices not to please family or friends, but because it is what I want to do. God, psycho-babble don't suit me. Let's just say that despite all the bullshit life throws out, I will prevail. Like a coat of red paint, the bull charge of my will, ego, indominatable spirit, prevails over all. Just in quiet reflective November moments does that hurt little. Screw all that hurt of the past. Too much good has happened. I have been loved too much to be haunted by the helplessness of my childhood.

Sunrise from rocky mountain outcrop, pointy treetops below barely clear the morning mist. And all the witness of this scene can think is, "diddle doddle doodle doddle dang."

The chillens be wild today. Each class misbehaved. I think the cold weather has them indoors. And the unwise wuss-ass fools that are the decision-makers at school won't let them get out for recess. All that pent-up energy taken out on teachers and in gym class. Not an organized energy. Not enough to really play a game. And I think about the little boy who died last week from asthma complications. And all the children in my classes who complain of asthma problems. And all the time spent indoors. And all the parents who are smokers. Sad sad. Tomorrow they all get free reign. Fruitless to try any team sports. Not gun do it. Twouldn't be prudent at this juncture.

Producers of the hit comedy get together in fancy class boardroom, all shiny walnut, leather and glass. Bigwig says, "The more fart jokes the better. Audience wants something it can relate to. Stick to farting and sex and spending money. And God Forbid any more of that coaxial zodiac earthenware crap!!!"

And so it is. The wounded warrior sips his beer to numb the wounded weather child within. A trail beckons. Hiking to or from? To forget or remember? Thank God for small miracles. Physical pain cannot be remembered.

Monday, November 25, 2002

Esther and I attended our first Sierra Club meeting tonight at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Rockford. I read in the paper there would be a "Coffee Talk" presentation on the health of urban waterways. Turned out to be a video presentation on the Willow Creek watershed in Machesney Park, the same Willow Creek that is dammed to form Pierce Lake in Rock Cut State Park, and from which Frankie Drabek and I played along for many, many hours when I was a kid.

The video shows how downstream flooding has become even more of a problem in recent years as development increases in the creek's watershed area. As more homes and parking lots are created, less water is absorbed into the soil. One landowner along the creek said it should be straightened and have concrete embankments on all sides, like Loves Park Creek. There was this 10-year old boy who said the creek is his favorite place to play. There's a shot of him standing creek side with all his neighborhood friends, a pile of tires, concrete pilings and garbage in the creek behind them. Water can only go three places, into the air, the ground, or the stream. Interesting to see how man's meddling affects the flow. Erosion problems continue and downstream residents along the creek have flooded basements because of all the new roads and houses out in the country.

The look of the audience familiar to most of the ecological-minded venues I've attended. Women have either butchy hair or really long hair, sensible makeup, modest attire. Men professorial, many older, in their 50s, the bearded, bifocaled, Birkenstocked set. I saw two men with cross-like pendant necklaces. A couple hippie-looking young guys sat in the back, dreadlocks and army jackets. The presenter a stick figure woman who suffered from asthma and made little coughing noises every couple of sentences. But she's full of spunk. Wore a purple outfit. Talked about moving to a formerly condemned home along Willow Creek in 1965 with three small children after her husband died. Said the place was rat-infested and she's still working on it. I asked if she still lived there. She said Yes and asked me right in front of everybody if I'd come over there and help her renovate the place. She's the one that funded the video. A former school teacher in the Harlem School District, it is obvious that Willow Creek is not just a part of her property, but a integral part of her life.

Last night got three or four inches of snow. Today was very cold. Boom! Winter is here. Children were subdued and attentive at school today. I imagine they'll be holy terrors Wednesday, the day before a holiday. Watched a sad movie, "Boys Don't Cry," about a lesbian pretending to be a man in rural Nebraska who is killed at the end of the movie. It is based on a true story.

Made a good all vegetable dinner tonight of falafel patties, tossed salad, fried garlic squash with onions, and portabella mushrooms cooked in red wine, olive oil and worcestershire sauce. I was quite pleased at how those turned out. Just something I threw together. Esther and I both have wicked gas. I don't know what we got into. My stomach has been upset the fast couple days, hence the meat-free dinner. Nothing like fresh veggies, even garlic, to get the gastronomy back in order.

On Saturday, before we attended Clay and Valerie's wedding party we went to an engagement party for Tony and Lisa. Lisa is one of Esther's co-workers, and Esther was invited to be in her wedding. She is also black. We were the token whiteys at the party, but everybody had a good time. Tony seems like a good guy. He's worked for the Rockford School District as a food service driver for 20 years. Why I mentioned the party? The fixin's were real good. Tony's got a secret barbecue sauce for his ribs that is to die for. I was going to ask him what it was, but Lisa said he doesn't tell anybody, not even other family members.

Sunday, November 24, 2002

I told myself I'd come back and edit the previous entry, but no, I'll leave it as a reminder to myself. Scatalogical, indeed. That sometimes happens when I drink too much coffee or havea big meal or snow is flying in light collecting flakes outside my window. See, there I go again.

Summary of previous entry. I saw an old friend and his wife and was treated very nicely by their friends and family, even though I made a fool of myself on dance floor.

Esther and I listened to NPR this morning and they had this guy on talking about common themes in old time country music. One is the "He's in the Jailhouse Now" theme of the errant drifter vagabond ne'er do well who shirks responsilbity. Another common theme is one of religious faith that endures hardship. I think I am something of a strange synthesis of the wandering minstrel and the faithful one. An amalgum of Hank Williams Sr. and the Carter family. Don't ask me. I don't know much about country music, just that I prefer old time country over Faith Hill and Shania Twain. And that I like to wander, but remain rooted to spouse and family and old friends. And am being torn apart by the opposite desires of my heart.
Clay Frazer called me out of the blue a couple weeks ago. He is friends with Goat, and the three of us hung out about 10 years ago when we all worked together at The Valley Forge. Funny that none of us are in the news business right now. I was the last to leave. But I hadn't seen Clay since he and his then-girlfriend Valerie came to our wedding almost eight years ago. He signed our guestbook at Trailplace when Esther and I through hiked the Appalachian Trail, but the last I'd heard about him, through Goat, was that Clay was in the Peace Corps in Africa. But he called me a couple weeks ago and invited Esther and I to his wedding party. He and Valerie got married in Key West at the beginning of November. They started dating in 1993, went out for three years, broke up for two, and got back together when Valerie contacted him when she wanted to sell a car the two co-signed on when they were dating. They maintained a long-distance relationship while she was in optometry school in Memphis and when he left for the Peace Corps. She even visited him a couple times in Africa.

Clay is a contributing factor to Esther and I getting into backpacking. He and Valerie gave us a tent as a wedding present. We used it the first two years of our marriage on car camping trips. Clay went to Southern Illinois University and got a degree in Environmental Biology (I think -- it's not like I interviewed him). He is now looking for work with the USDA near where he and Valerie live in Hartland, WI, and is into outdoor activities. How cool is that? Most of my old, old friends I have a hard time relating to because of my love of outdoor activities. Clay is the opposite.

Last night Esther and I saw Clay and Val at their party at the VFW Club in Loves Park. I go there with Dad now and again for Friday night fish fry and it is a stone's throw from Sahara, where my mother had a restaurant and catering business for many years. We show up around 9 p.m. I tell Esther we can drink as much as we want because if we can't drive we can always walk to my parent's place. God my writing sucks today. Too scatalogical. I'll plod on. We don't know anybody except Clay and Valerie, but Valerie's brother recognizes me from a poetry reading I read at about a month ago. He took his ninth grade English class from Harlem there. Right when we walk through the door we hit it off with a group of almost total strangers, trying to converse over loud music. God I love music, but why so loud? Nothing else to do but dance. And since we are not known so well, there is no need for a sense of unconsciousness, dance with abandon, go nuts. I grab the microphone and rap along with the latest Eminem tune. Dance with the bride. Boogie with the groom. All good fun. And relatively sober. No open bar, so only have a couple drinks. Get home from a night of dancing. The good wife attacks me... Some moves.

I'll get back to this blog later. This evening. When I can cogitate a little better....

Thursday, November 21, 2002

look at the dark smudge on each parking lot stall
the rainbow oil slick
rainfall wash to watershed
and on to sea again
thousands of dark smudges
millions of parking lots
we're covering our world with asphalt
while fish die and trailer parks drown
it's always the ugly, poor and stupid
that get nailed first
sooner or later the pretty rich smart'll
get theirs

Snapshot moment: Snowfall outside caged gymnasium windows. Inside, the sons and daughters of Vietnamese and Cambodian immigrants hold hands and run in a circle singing that happy dirge from the Black Death. Ring around the rosies, pockets full of posies, ashes, ashes we all fall down. Kishwaukee School's long-lasting impression on me will likely be the kind, courteous Asian students, the young punk loud the world owes me everything attitude of the sistahs and brothahs, black and white and every shade in-between. The more Americanized students distress me. I feel for their futures. Of course, the architecture, solid brick building, shiny red tile floor in the hallway, old, ancient old lockers, big windows, no screens, that open out, triptych glass above main entrance. Wooden shelves, dark stained, in the classrooms. Solid. Old school. Classic. Time-tested. What will be the legacy of our modern, ephemeral, no-attention span, mass-production moment values? My generation's legacy is the landfill.

Yes, today we got our first real snowfall. Fat wet flakes that accumulated for but a few hours. The powers that be decided to keep the children inside for recess. Didn't want them to get coldsy-woldsies in the snowy weather. First class of fifth graders a collective Oooohh, Snow, and gaping out of caged window. They wanted to open the door, and I wanted to let them. But there was this business of attendance and volleyball and other adult concerns. If I had my druthers I'da put on my coat and gone out into that gray concrete playground world and twirled, tongue out, collect the uniquely geometric flakes melt into sameness on my tongue and eyelashes and get my hair wet. But by the time school let out at 2 p.m., the flakes melted of their own accord and it was a mere wet gray world with no snowy magic.

Back home did something not so smart and watched brilliant, but depressing, "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" Why not so smart? November's no time to watch depressing movies. Only good thing about that movie is catharsis, that universal, jeepers cripes thank God that's not me sense of relief. Black and white movie. Based on a play. Only four characters. Space time occurs over one evening. Two and a half hours. And that's my afternoon, ladies and gents.

After dinner Esther and I drive to Rock Valley College, our alma mater, so to speak, and also where we met and fell in love, the setting of our earliest years together, 1992 and 1993. We went there because Esther needed her transcripts sent to some day care board for approval of her hours, blah blah bureaucratic crap. We decide to walk around the campus a little bit. Its changed a bit in the northern end of campus. A new technology building we didn't visit. Instead investigated our old haunts, the student center and library. Walked around the library looking at artwork. I picked up a copy of the first paper I worked for, The Valley Forge. We got asked for directions three times by members of the Rockford Symphony Orchestra looking for the theatre building. Lucky for them we directed them to the right spot. As we crossed Spring Creek on the main bridge connecting said library and student center, I saw a lady do a face plant as she tripped over a step. A symphony lady looking for the theater.

I finished The Two Towers today. Frodo's been captured by Sauron's forces. Oh, no! What will happen in Return of the King? Gotta be a happy ending. Now I am ready for the movie next month. I will wait until next fall to read the final book in the series. Now I am reading "Blue Shoe," by Anne Lamott. She's one of my favorite modern fiction writers. But now I am off to the Divine Cup to read a little poetry and maybe even do some improv like I did Monday. Good coffee and verse awaits.

Saturday, November 16, 2002

Last night after seeing "Red Dragon," the first of the Hannibal Lecter trilogy movies and second best to "Silence of the Lambs," Esther and I came home and I made a scary face at her. Basically, I just bug out my eyes and give a maniacal smile. She closed her eyes and refused to look at me. I got upset with her. She said that face I made would give her nightmares. I told her there's no face you make that would give me nightmares. It just opened a part of me I'm sensitive about, and that is my somewhat menacing looks.

I wish I had the ability to post pictures on this web site. I'm sure I could figure it out in time. Then I could take pictures of myself and my various faces and post them. I know that if I tried to become a Hollywood actor, I'd be typecast as the bad guy. With my long face, big eyes, prominent brow and devilish grin I'd make a perfect villain. Nobody but me knows how much my appearance affects my personality. I try to smile a lot to offset the appearance. And think that when I was younger I was singled out by teachers and classmates because of it. In elementary school if some unsolved mischief occurred I was the first one blamed. More because I was a hyperactive child, but also, I believe, because of my looks. Of course, I'm surely overly sensitive about it, but you would be, too, if many people over the course of the years made allusions to you looking like Lurch on the Adams Family, Jaws of James Bond movie fame, or, my favorite, Frankenstein.

And Esther's refusal to look at me hurt. Hurt a lot. Because she's the love of my life, my spouse, my partner, my best friend. Sure, she'd just seen a scary movie, and I was making a scary face on purpose. I understand all that. It still hurts. That I can make a face that sends chills down the spine of my dearest Sisu. And if she's all goodness and light, attractor of small animals and children, and I am her opposite, what does that make me? In a little while we are going to the in-laws to celebrate Trent Larson's birthday. Trent and Beth's daughter, Emily, will be there. She's scared of me. And not because of anything I've done, but because of how I look. And I know looks are superficial. And I know it is easy to move beyond appearances. I have. I do. But to be saddled with a menacing appearance is a burden nonetheless. I was painfully reminded of this last night.

Tonight I get together with Andy and possibly Steve. We're going to check out some live music somewhere in Rockford. It should be fun. That is, if Andy's not a sourpuss. And even if he is, I plan to not let it get to me. Tonight is all about fun. Saturday night. Esther and I need a break from each other. Andy is one of the few friends that doesn't like having her around when we go out. In fact, he's the only friend like this. It is because he is a misogynist (has a deep-seated mistrust and dislike of women). It's an issue of confidence with him. He has none. Or very little. Beer gives him courage, a foolish bravado.

Here in the Locascio household I am in charge of all things food, from purchasing groceries to preparing meals. For the past year we have done our grocery shopping at Woodman's, a humongous supermarket on the far east side of Rockford off Perryville Road. I have been contemplating a different way to shop and employed it today. I started out at Aldi's and bought canned goods, milk, eggs, chicken thigh and leg quarters and frozen Whiting fillets. The line was horrendous, and most of the stuff they sell at Aldi's is pure crap, from the convenient frozen foods to potato chips to all the toys and computers. I remember this from shopping at Aldi's back in college days and in terms of non-food crap items, its gotten worse. The 20 minutes in line went by quick as I talked to this old man, in his sixties, about grocery shopping, going to Europe, household chores, east side v. west side in Rockford, etc. He wore a flannel jacket and a Columbia fleece hat with ear flaps.

Then it was on to the 320 store in downtown Rockford for fresh fruit and vegetables. Great variety, the stock man addressed regular customers by first name. On a wooden beam near the cash register is pinned pictures and notes from local Catholic priests. The veggies look so much fresher than at Woodman's. Last I went to Pinnon's meat market and bought a ham steak, baby back ribs and sirloin steak. It was a bit more expensive, but again, better quality. No foam trays. The lady who served me behind the meat counter saw a regular customer and told her "hold on a minute and I'll come give you a big hug." It reminded me of the meat market I worked at in college, Inboden's, in DeKalb. I helped with customer service there.

Of course, I forgot a bunch of things, but will continue with this system. The 320 store and Pinnon's Meat Market are both locally owned and close to home. Aldi's is cheap and convenient for picking up staple items. This new system will work itself out and result in better, fresher meats, veggies and fruit. Sure, I'll pay a little more, but hope Aldi's cheapness balances out the extra cost. We'll see. Maybe after a year or two the shopkeepers will know me by name. That'd be cool.

Friday, November 15, 2002

I stepped out of my nearly brand new car
into a puddle of vomit
alarmed, but curious I checked the contents
yellow frothy bile and what looked like crackers
a group of homeless men stood
nearby smoking cigarettes
they looked happy and laughed
as I wiped my shoe in a pile of leaves
once you throw up the hard part is over
the pain is gone for now
until the stomach muscles seize again
and even then it's not so bad
quite pleasant like all liquid release
when I came back it was almost dark
and the bums were gone
leaned to open door and long-legged
stepped over the vomit
but the smell remained
or so I imagined

Weird, weird Friday night mood, nursing swill beer Hamm's Special Light listening to Jeff Buckley. And all people and all their pretty concerns amuse me and bore me and even my own life seems mundane and the lawful syntax of language and existence and my perception of it goes gray gloom. Only a temporary November thing. Fricking sunset at 4:30 p.m. thing. Fricking cars and crushed cans and gravestones and unidentified plastic pieces and homeless guys and puddles of vomits and magazine articles about 37 ways to jazz up the holidays.
So what's my fricking afternoon like? Stop by Goat's right after work, but he's not home or, as it turns out later, is sleeping. Then it's home and check e-mail and download music and play guitar. Then it's to the library, where I step in aforementioned vomit. Read magazines, check out compact discs and DVDs. Back home, make dinner (pollack fish, sweet potato, broccoli). Phone calls, contemplate seeing live music. Goat finally calls back. Wants to go see Red Dragon at $1 North Towne Theatre, 9:50 p.m. show. Last week was with Goat at $1 theatre. I sense a pattern. Hope tonight we don't sit in front of a group of loud sistahs with child in stroller. Will Smith don't star in this flick and Anthony Hopkins doesn't seem to draw the African-American demographic.
Last night Goat hung out with a couple waitress friends, got drunk and ate pizza. He said he's broke because he probably bought everything. And Goat's got a car again, yippee, after almost two years away because of second DUI conviction. Not that Goat's a drunk. Sure, he likes a few beers now and again, but he's no red-nosed cirrhosis of liver rummy lush. He's just a bad driver who downed three or four beers of an evening and got pulled over. I don't know. The teetotaler, counselor, Englishman and New Yorker all have different ideas of what constitutes alcoholism.
Goat's picking us up. It's a short trip to the theatre. Strange to not shuttle him around.
Last night's presentation on the Superior Hiking Trail went well. Procrastinator me got away with it again. Sllides came back from lab just in time -- $50 for 20 slides. Ouch! Just got a $50 check earlier this week from TDK mail-in rebate for CD burner I bought this summer. It all balances out.
But where was I? Speaking of 50, that's how many attended the presentation at the Rock County Job Center in Janesville. I presented my lightweight backpacking gear, showed slides and told stories about the trip. Did my best to put little factual tidbits in there. Bottom line, thesis, the SHT is accessible to anybody, whether going on a long-distance trip, weekend or short day hike.
Spent three hours yesterday afternoon compiling notes. Ham me quite pleased to have such a receptive audience. I started off all nervous stumbly-voiced, but got better as I went. Even my jokes went over well. The whole thing lasted about 70 minutes. Mom and Dad Locascio rode with us. During gear presentation I applauded mother for sewing the quilt and tarp. I'd love to give this presentation again.
But that's it. I'm let down and bored tonight. Everything is pale. I feel stupid and ignorant and unenlightened and everything I'm trying not to be. But I do have a balanced diet. I have no addictions, except for the elixir of the gods, Hamm's (From the land of sky blue waters... Waters... From the land of pines... Comes the beer refreshing... Comes the beer refreshing... HAMM's). And outside of being bland, like my mood, it's not a bad beer. Can't beat the price.
"Dolby digital soundtracks contain up to 5.1 channels of discrete audio." -- small print on back of DVD box.

Discrete? Oh, excuse me, we're going to have sound here. Taken from a DVD box label. Textual me reads even the small print. Keeps me amused and out of debt. Discretion is the better part of valor. Discrete audio is technocrat mumbo jumbo bullshit.

"Madalena cried
her mother consoled her
saying to her
poor people are worthless
and are destined to suffer
the only one who can help is the Lord" -- Gilberto Gil

Demarcus Horton, a fourth grader at Kishwaukee Elementary School, called me a four-eyed bitch today. In my crazy class of the day, where none of the kids would sit still and be quiet when I took attendance, Demarcus took the red ball and hit a classmate at close range with it. This was not as part of the game. He was messing around. I told him to sit down and he stooped to tie his shoe. I finally got him seated on the sideline and I heard him say the F word, so called the office. As he was leaving he called me a four-eyed bitch and made fun of my shoes.
Another instance where I admire the taunt of authority represented by Demarcus's behavior, but alarmed at the disrespect he has for classmates and fellow adults. A healthy skepticism towards leaders and authorities in your world is good, but it must be reasoned. Chaotic rebellion serves no purpose and makes one a fool. How to explain this to a fourth grader? I cannot. I saw Demarcus later in the day, still sitting in the office, and he remained unrepentant. It saddens me. Maybe that's what adds to my mood tonight. His dye is cast. Will Demarcus ever amount to anything but a street corner punk? Probably not. And there's nothing this mildly buzzed substitute gym teacher can do. Of course, my elementary school teachers had dire predictions for me, and look how I turned out. HA!

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Cannons are like little appointments with God. That little ball of melted lead flying to its fate. Maybe a pile of dirt, microcosms and ants and, of course, the cannon ball itself, affected by the universal flux. Or maybe a smack to the brain of an unsuspecting warmongering fool human. That's my deity. The wormy wriggling complexity of existence.

Got a call from Debra Jensen Dehart at the Beloit Daily News saying she doesn't need my stories for this month's edition. Fine, I say, the deadline for said stories comes at inopportune time as I prepare for Janesville presentation tomorrow. Tonight I will get gear together and write a bunch of notecards about points I want to make. Call my folks and secure slide projector. Blah blah blah. See first paragraph. God is in the details. God is in the movement.

Still dragon ass with this cold, making me all hoarse and coffee and losing my voice. Sound like a smoker. I told old smoker friend Steve it wasn't fair I had to non-smoker suffer while he's all chimney clear-voiced. Maybe this is cancer. Maybe it's the big one. Because of my previous history with the palpitating heart every little episode of heart-burn or over-exuberant stomach gurgle is misconstrued as the big one. (Fred Sanford : "I'm coming to join ya, Elizabeth." He finally did. Grady's dead too. Lamont's still kicking. Esther, the purse weapon sistah, I don't know if she's still kicking. She seemed old in the 70s).

So, why write about my life in this journal? I try to keep a diary of some sort, and this is it. So egotistical, self-centered. Or as Steve Hardt said in an e-mail, "It's all about you." But I'm just a normal, boring meat and potatoes Midwest conservative beer drinking sometimes church-going agnostic overalls wearing coffee stains on his t-shirt hoarse voiced slightly gutted and getting slimmer hiker nature loving fool. ME is all I got. Even with love of wife and family and friends.

I will leave behind a mountain of words behind when I die. And whether I am a published leather patch elbow book touring boddhisatva literati prolifica or not, my heirs will have reams of mouldering print to wade through. And my printed words in newspapers will survive on micro-fiche and Internet databases.

Speaking of posterity, when I went to NIU about a year ago I went to the library and got into their microfiche of the DeKalb Daily Chronicle and found a couple articles and columns I wrote. Stupid conceit, to be sure. But as doubt creeps in, as I falter and hem and haw and procrastinate over the next step I will take this writing, I can go to my in-laws' farmhouse, climb to the rafters of the chicken coop where our stuff is stored, and look through three boxes of clips, remants of 10 years off and on in the newspaper business, from junior college to college to the northwoods and all points in-between. So fricking what if I don't have any major magazine credentials yet? Persistence, boy. And faith in your abilities. And even though you are a procrastinating SOB, you will get around to it. Have patience in yourself. All things in good time and time for all good things. Your journey is just begun. Blah blahy blah

I gotta go make dinner.

Screw that. I'll do Chinese.

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Yesterday cold and gray, but Esther skipped work and we hiked on the Ice Age Trail in Walworth County after I did an interview in Beloit. Good hike. I'm still sore. We went from Rice Lake to Hwy. 12, round trip a little over 6 miles. Leaden sky. No way to tell time. Hilly terrain. That's why there's a trail. Glacial topography. This landscape serves no agricultural purpose and would be difficult to build a house on.

I did not sleep well Sunday night. My cold and coughing and hacking up yellow-green phlegm and all that. And Esther feels superior because when she had the cold it only lasted a day. Sure, she's all, oh, poor you and caring, but I know she's gloating inside. Such is her competitive nature. So what if my white cells aren't as efficient as hers. I'm new to this working around kids business. Gotta build up a tolerance.

After hike came home and watched a movie, "That Thing You Do," written and directed by Tom Hanks, who also has a role. Lite fair. It doesn't suck, but the ending is too pat. The band breaks up just after appearing on television? Give me a break. The bass player disappears at Disney World with a couple Marines? And the romance between the main character and Liv Tyler was so foreshadowed, when it finally happens at the end it's like, duh? Not a bad job by Hanks. He's a great actor and comedian. It shows with some funny one-liners. But he's no script-writer or director. His inexperience there shows too.

One thing that happened Friday I did not report is we got a phone message from Esther's father, Paul, saying that her grandmother broke her leg and, in his words, "it might be a terminal event." Those words, "terminal event," sound so clinical and detached, and this man is talking about his mother. That's very Scandinavian northern Minnesota Garrison Keillor of my father-in-law. He is such an anxious, worrisome soul bear the whole world on his shoulders control freak that he hardly ever goes away from the confines of the family farm. He cannot handle crowds or large gatherings, even of family. The weekend in 2001 when he had his heart attack, during the wedding reception for his niece he hid away in a corner somewhere.

And that emotional reticence showed through in his message about his mother. "Terminal event." Come one, come all. One time only. Dad Larson wrote grandma off prematurely. She's in recovery and is expected to survive. He's quick to write her off because she has severe alzheimer's disease and is already mentally dead to the world except for brief moments of lucidity. One of the most horrifying moments was when Esther and I visited her and she scowled at Esther, said I don't know you. I don't like you. Get away from me. Get away! Poor Esther was driven to tears seeing her in that condition.

I am once again cooking beer can chicken. Last time it was great, tasted all smoky and barbecuey, but this time should be better. I'm using more coals and have mesquite wood soaked in water for 40 minutes added to give more flavor. I also marinated the whole bird in Famous Dave's BBQ sauce, real maple syrup and ketchup for a couple hours. Now the bird has to cook for about 1 1/2 hours under indirect heat. Yum.

I've learned the art of slow cooking. The slower you cook something, the more tender the meat.

Subbing again this week at Kishwaukee Elementary School. If I work another week I will qualify for long-term sub status and make $20 more a day. That would be very cool. So I am hoping and praying the nameless, faceless Mr. Pirrello remains too ill or emotionally wrought or whatever to come back. To wish ill fortune upon someone is ill fortune upon yourself. I hope he gets better, but wishes to milk the system and take time off to re-discover himself. Yeah, that'll work. Good karma all around and I get paid more.

No open stage this week, but I am working on a couple more original tunes. Still working on the short story about the woman offered an alternate reality of fame and stardom. Still plan to write some query letters this week, specifically to Wisconsin Trails and a Minnesota outdoor publication. Also preparing and cramming notes for my presentation Thursday about the Superior Hiking Trail.

BEER ALERT: The beer I am using for beer can chicken is Hamm's Special Light ($3.99 a 12-pack). No flavor and it tears through you if you drink a lot of it. I opted for value over quality. Next time a nice porter or stout. Had to prove I wasn't a beer snob.

Saturday, November 09, 2002

That I have the vision and fortitude to sit in front of this computer is amazing. Today has been all about video, video, video... That, and reuniting with an old friend and our godchildren.

Steve Hardt finally called last night after I tried for days to reach him. Every time I tried to call in the evening, the phone was busy. Now I know why. Steve, his sister, Carrie, and brother, Randy, all have computers. They also all like to talk on the phone. The phone rang at least a couple times an hour today while we were over there.

I woke up early this morning because of my runny nose and cold, which has gotten progressively worse and now has me hoarse-voiced and coughing. I enjoyed the quiet of the morning reading Tolkien and watching the sun rays rise up the wall of the living room. Esther slept a few more hours after me. I then read in the paper about Northern Illinois Football playing Bowling Green today, and both are 5-0 in the MAC. It is billed as the most important game in NIU football history!!! NIU hasn't won a MAC title since 1983. When I went there, the football program sucked. Big time. I think they only won a couple games. So I tried to get a hold of Todd Stanley to see if he wanted to meet me in DeKalb, but had no luck. Then I tried my Dad, but he wanted to do yardwork instead. Esther offered to come with, but it's not fun watching football with someone who doesn't know anything about the game. She'd still be good company, and would remember to bring seat cushions, blankets, etc. for stadium comfort. I've gone to many a high school football game with her. And when we lived in Antigo she even had football photos published in the paper. Her only photo credit to date. So she's not totally naive. But more than football, I was just craving guy company.

So I called Steve back. He left a message last night. Esther and I rode our bikes over to his place and took a short bike ride with Steve Jr. around the neighborhood. We went to Rock Cut Elementary, and being the boring fuddy-duddy I said, "Yeah, back in my day, we didn't have playground equipment. This is the same schoolyard I beat your dad up in. Hee hee." Then it was over to the house for hours upon hours of video game action playing Grand Theft Auto III. I got a sadistic glee out of blowing cars up, stealing stuff, running people over and blowing stuff up with bazookas and rifles. Steve had cheat codes so the police didn't bother me and I had unlimited life. I caused mass carnage on the street.

We also watched a HORRIBLE action movie with Steve, Steve Jr., and Breanna called, "The Scorpion King," starring The Rock of WWE fame. Steve is separated from his wife, Michelle, but she came over for awhile. They seem to be on chilly terms with each other, but can get along well enough to not kill each other. Michelle has always been a tempestuous person, and Steve is picky enough to drive her up a wall. I get a sick joy out of watching their petty arguments. Michelle and the kids are living with her folks. She looks good and healthy and is working full-time. Steve is back at a collection agency, also working full-time. Steve lives with his mother in the same house he grew up in. So quite a throwback day for us, he 30, me on the eve of, hanging out at his Mom's, just like old times, playing video games. I hope to keep in closer contact with Steve. Now that he is away from Michelle, he may be inclined to actually go out with me of an evening. Maybe not. He is kind of a homebody.

Quick update on yesterday. I saw two movies, "8-Mile" and "Men In Black II." MIB II we saw at the North Towne dollar theater. These black women behind talked during the entire movie. They also had an infant in a carriage. Chaos. A loud, action-packed flick and I could hardly pay attention. Very inconsiderate. And this from the most disenfranchised ethnic minority in this country. Sistahs be talking about getting they props, but they don't exercise common courtesy. Uncool. Goat Boy joined us. It was his idea to go to the movie. He just needed a ride. He starts at UPS Monday and told me he will finally get his car back from his mother. God, am I the only one with no financial/housing ties to my parents? My other good friend mentioned in this entry, Todd, also lives at home in Steger, IL.

Got a little toasty on five beers last night, including cheap swill Hamm's Special Light (110 calories) I bought for $3.99 a 12-pack at Hilander's. Bland, nearly flavorless, but inoffensive. Ripped through my gut, though. Wonder why cheap beer does that? Just can't drink it in mass quantities. Also, after being good all day with dieting, I stopped at Uncle Nick's and bought a greasy gyro after a beer (my fourth, Esther drove) at the Irish Rose.

Friday was a beautiful day. After the 12:30P showing of 8-Mile at Showplace I took a long bike ride, this time exploring neighborhoods in south-central Rockford, going just a little beyond Harrison to a subdivision which ends in fields. As I rode down unfamiliar streets near Alpine and Harrison I rode by a group of Asian kids playing. One boy looked familiar, but I kept going. Then I heard a little voice yell, "Hey there gym teacher!!!"

Thursday, November 07, 2002


The first graders ran in through the wooden doors
sat down at their spots
orange dots painted on the gym floor
while I continued playing Around the World
How come we don't have a basketball to play with?
a smart-aleck boy said
Because you're too small
How come I don't have a bouncy ball to jump on?
I said
Because you're too big
smart-aleck said
I continued shooting
Why don't you have hair on your chest
a mortgage
driver's license or car to drive
or the glazed over sedation of adulthood?
What's that big word you said mean?
Which one?
See-see. The one that starts out see something
You'll figure it out
About the same time you can make free throws
How come we have to sit?
Because I haven't made it around the world
When will you make it around the world?
I don't know
Can we play now?
Not until after I take attendance.
When is that?
Look, kid, this is getting old
But smart-aleck and the others couldn't sit and by the time I made
the fourth shot the brave ones had grabbed
at the bouncy balls
and pig-tailed girls hip swayed giggle with hula hoops
Now that's something I could never do
the hula hoop
Not even when I was in first grade

On Wednesday, I visited Mrs. Adams' fifth grade class at Kishwaukee Elementary School that had given me so much trouble twice before and I had them write during their scheduled gym time about respect and what it means to them. Some excerpts:

"Treat others the way they want to be treated because if you don't you will get in trouble and if you talk you will be in bigger trouble. you mite end up getting kick out of school."

"I would respect you. I'm a nice little girl. You should get to know me, and I should get to know you. We started off horrible, but we're really good inside. So give us another chance please with sugar on top and chocolate in the middle please give us another chance please."

"Respect means that you have to treat others the way you want to be treated and be kind to others. Don't talk back and listen to what they say. When someone needs help you should help them."

"My class is very disrespectful I admit but sometimes they can be very nice and kind. I'm very sorry about the obnoctus girls in my dreadful class. But would you give us a chance to trie again. I blaim Kristina, Stephane, Jasmine and Josph."

"When talking talk safly."

"I tried to tell you something instead of getting in trouble but you disrespect me by not listening so I disrespected you back, and that's what going to happen every time. You have to respect me to get respect from me." (This is from the girl who gave me the most trouble and refused to cooperate)

"I don't bud in someone's conversation, when someone don't play with me I mind my own buisness not go and say 'ha, you a tooth-faced girl you better be my friend or I will beat you up.'"

I may be back again at that school next week. The janitor/head maintenance guy Joe told me he heard through the grapevine that the regular gym teacher really has a bad back. We'll see. If I work the same class for more than 10 days I get paid more and it's steady work. Both are good things. Now I'm getting all this mail about master's degree programs for teaching that I can sign up for. "SPECIAL -- only two nights a week, right here in Rockford!!" We'll see. I'm not too keen on more student loans. Still paying off my undergraduate. I do know if the academic world beckoned again, I would do quite well. I did quite well as an undergrad except for non-major courses like chemistry and French. Everything else I got A's or B's. Hard to believe it has been more than four years since I graduated.

After school I took a long bike ride south to Harrison Street and discovered unnamed county forest preserve land along the Rock River's west bank just north of Harrison. No sign or entrances, just bottomlands. The boundary has small forest preserve signs. Worth checking out sometime. Next to Davis Park, still on the west bank of the Rock River, near the Fordham Dam, there is a tunnel under a railroad bridge the homeless people have erected shanties in. I wanted to venture inside and have a conversation, but just rode by outside and looked in, saw plywood boards, a shadow in human form and the burning ember of a cigarette. I should go back with notebook and camera. Still remember our visit to Hobo Junction in Beloit. Sad sad sad, but good journalism.

I got my first paycheck tonight after stopping at the Larson's. Still have not been paid by the Beloit Daily News for three stories I did for Stateline Business. What's the deal with that? I notice they've been published on-line. Plus, it's the November issue, and hard copies should be out. I will inquire about that when I submit my next batch of articles.

Tomorrow should be an easy day. No subbing then or Monday. I'm scheduled to go to the Wedgbury Indoor sports arena for an 11 a.m. interview, and will arrange for an interview with Dave Buchan in Beloit (re: the Entrepeneurial Development Center) and Kutter Harley Davidson in Janesville (re: them being the best-selling HD dealer in the US or something). Like to kill all three birds with one stone tomorrow.

My cold is manifesting itself even more. Like every night since Monday, I'm staying in. Today was a beautiful Indian summer day and I rode through the dusk, a most glorious time of day to be outside. Explored my father's old neighborhood on the way home, warm south wind propelling me onward. I get a late afternoon sunshine glimpse of Rockford from a hill on top of Kent Street. So many parks in this town. So many streets. So much to explore in the second city. So much to see.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

Today is so beautiful fall glorious I think I'll take a bike ride in the 4 p.m. dusk. It's supposed to be sunny and warm this weekend, highs in the 50s and 60s. I sure hope so. I've got nothing concrete planned for the first time in what seems like months, and maybe a road trip or tour of county forest preserves is in order. Certainly would like to spend some time outdoors. Isn't that surprising?

I let the third and fourth graders have free reign in gym class. The only caveat is they had to stay in the gym and the only thing I let them play with is basketballs. Watched as a group of six to eight tried to form teams, endlessly bickering over who should be on what team, kids quit in disgust, turn around and want back in, disrupting the selection. This went on for 15 minutes and teams never did get formed. That's the product of the Game Boy generation. No attention spans to stick to any task at hand, and a me me me intractable mentality. I read a great quote from Lao Tzu this morning: "Guard the senses/and life is ever full.../ Always be busy/ and life is beyond hope." Lao Tzu, which sounds like it would be a spicy take-out dish, was a philosopher from 2,500 years ago. The 21st century mind regards 100 years ago as quiet and quaint. Think what 'ol Lao would think of modern society. He'd probably shut himself off in a monastery.

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

Dirty rotten scoundrelous day after gorgeous golden sunshine day yesterday. October was unseasonably cold and because of shifting warm and cold spots in the ocean thousands of miles away, el nina or nino, I don't remember, it is supposed to be a cold winter. Fine. I love winter, ever since I married a Nordic. Maybe this year I will ski, either cross country or downhill, snowshoe, sled. Pink cheeks, frosty breath, come back in and legs itch from all the heat rushing to warm skin. Hot chocolate. Hot cider. Walking down the middle of the street in a snowstorm, grabbing a gloved palmful of fresh fallen flakes and blowing them, watching them rainbow prism in weak sunlight or arc street lamp. Tracks of animals. Little critters, birds, desert-like blowing dunes of powder. Bring it on, baby, but can't we just cut the middleman, this dreary late fall sopping wetness and slow death?

Last night's poetry slam was a competitive bust. I didn't make it to the final round and got few votes. But it was a joy and entertainment and learning experience all wrapped in one to listen to others, from the speed-rappy Kerouac cum DJ affectations of one to the inner city plight and soul sister sojourn of a black woman, to the awkward rhymings of the young and hurt. A lot of people showed up to the Rockford Public Library, including one crazy homeless guy with a huge leather hat with teeth tied by sinewy strips all around his brim. He started ranting in the middle of our host's poem and was quickly shuttled out of the room by attending staff. I saw him disappear with plastic-covered cart dragging behind him. The downtown library reeks of homelessness -- stale tobacco and alcohol sweat. Poems that rhyme and full of raw emotion win audiences over, not the cerebral non-rhyming wordplay I employed. Lesson learned. Next slam I'll take a more populist take.

Tonight it is open stage at the Divine Cup, the same place I read poetry at Halloween night. I don't know if I'm going or will stay home and do some more creative writing. Whatever the muse commands. Music or writing. It's all good.

Today, back at Kishwaukee Elementary School, I had the fifth grade class that was hellish yesterday. But instead of having them in gym class I went to their room and had them spend their half hour writing about respect. Tried not to lecture them, but reinforced the golden rule and, without wording it as such, the karma principle. What you do unto others, eventually, inevitably, will be done unto you. God, I love the clean simplicity of that truth. The rest of the classes were uneventful. I let them have free reign except for one group of fourth graders I tried to get play floor hockey. Bad idea, giving a bunch of undisciplined fourth graders sticks to beat each other with. Mob rule, many barked shins, one team won, 7-4. I've only had half the gym the last two days because all the students are getting dental check-ups in the other half, closed off by a floor to ceiling divider. Some of the kids come straight over to gym class from check up. Guess what, Mr. G. I don't have any cavities. A whole crowd of kids parading their open mouths before me. Young, gap-toothed, cavity-ridden wonders. I amaze them with my mouth full of silver. Betcha I got more cavities than you do? And the dental payments to prove it!

Last night watched the Packers beat Miami, 24-10, on Monday night football, in the same room at my parent's house I watched so many Monday Night games throughout the years. Favre was spectacular, along with running back Ahman Green. Defensive greatness from Nate Wayne, including an 89-yard touchdown off an interception. Packers now have the best record in the NFL. I will document every sports event I watch here in this blog to prove to myself and the world I am not a sports-obsessed idiot, or at least that I've come a long way since my sports editor Antigo days. Mom and Dad drove down scenic Route 2 yesterday to Oregon and ate at a fancy restaurant where they had a $10 off coupon. I always assume my parents don't get along, but they do enough to take road trips together to enjoy the fall colors. And as the years eat away they know that each other is all they have.

I feel I'm getting a cold. So many sick others I've come into contact with, from Mom Larson to snot-nosed petri dish elementarians. No coughing yet. But a weird taste in the back of my mouth. Maybe just brush my teeth, floss. Hope it's a false alarm. But I know this body and all its symptoms. I've been wrong before. Won't practice for senior citizenhood my cataloguing my ailments. Be stalwart and stoic, suffer in silence and spare us the details.

Saturday, November 02, 2002

Today I worked with my hands. Woke up early to go to Milton, WI to build new Ice Age Trail in a small tract of woods between a road and a new housing development. Show up with tools and no one is there. When the Rock County chapter of the Ice Age Trail published their newsletter, it said trail work was only scheduled for Nov. 3. Carla Hanson, secretary, recognized the gaffe and e-mailed members that work was also on Saturday, but nobody showed. Esther and cleared about 50 feet of trail on an old railroad bed. The tough part removing stumps from small trees in the way. Easy part smoothing the tread. The soil is very loamy and soft. We clear a thick patch of brambles and establish trail. Left a humongous pile of brush in our wake after three hours of steady labor. My hands are still twitchy from gripping the tools/

Afterwards, we go to downtown Milton and have lunch at the Milton Family Restaurant. It is such a pleasant, sunny, blue sky fall day that after lunch we take a walk around town. Beautiful old brick homes, windows that distort the view slightly. Then it is back to Rockford to pick up our composte before going to Esther's parent's place. The Larson farm is a peaceful oasis to me, all about warm bread and hugs and afternoon sunshine. I help shovel composte from one bin to a cart, and then distributed it throughout the garden. Then I shoveled the newer composte from a full bin into the recently emptied bin. Farm cats investigate our actions, sniff and paw at un-decomposed eggshells, pooh-pooh the finds and scamper off to the woodpile behind the garage looking for mice.

After dinner we look at our old photos which have been in storage. Most of our photos, pre-1999, I have not looked at since we moved from Antigo. Looking at photos validates my existence, tells me I've lived a life, been places, have friends and family. But I see pictures from college days and notice, wow, I have aged a bit since then. I look older now. And so does Esther. But she has lost weight, especially since the Antigo days. Wisconsin northwoods living will fatten you up. Harsher winters slow the metabolism. People are friendlier, more apt to invite you to dinner and feed you till you're bursting. Months of that will expand the waistline. I'm so glad I took the time to document life experiences. These after-dinner reminisces are a treasure.

Then it was on to Woodman's to get groceries. Checking out Esther notices the person bagging groceries is Steve Hardt's mom, Shirleen. I remember she worked for Motorola in Harvard. I remember writing about the plant shutdown for the Beloit Daily News. She shames me, asks why I never come over anymore. I will go over there tomorrow after trail work. She tells the cashier, "These people are the godparents of my grandchildren." And I am shamed even more. I have not seen Steve Hardt or his children in over a year. And we live in the same town. He's going through a messy divorce, and I've called him a number of times, but he never calls me back. Always, always, the onus of maintaining a relationship rests on me. I like Steve, and have a connection with my childhood friend that is still easygoing, even after long absences. So I'll pay a visit, even if he fails to make any effort to stay in touch with me.

It's getting late. I'm tired and farting wicked gas, as I have been the last three days. Time to call it a day and hit the sack. I've earned my rest. It has been a fulfilling day.

Friday, November 01, 2002

Just got off the phone with my mother. She is hard of hearing so I let her do the talking instead of yelling to get her to understand me. But tonight she took her hearing aid out and suprise, she could hear me all right. Poor Ma, she's got hearing problems and now her sight is going with some unidentified skin problem around her eyes. She is dermatologically cursed and has passed on the curse to me. All her travails await me down the tunnel of years.
Mom said she had a good time visiting my sister Carol in Houston. Carol's getting a divorce from her yuppie wanna-be cheating bastard husband, who I pegged as an asshole early because he plays golf and was in a fraternity in college. Never could stand frat boys. They reek of privilege and obviousness. And that's Steve, I guess. I don't really know him, and guess I never will. Don't really know Carol for that matter. She's a very private person. And a Yuppie, too, but I won't hold it against her. Every family's got to have one.
Okay, I'll play this cruel, peg in hole game. My siblings in a nutshell. Mike -- Misfit; Carol -- Yuppie; Bob -- Follower; Ken -- Playboy; Greg -- Hippie. These words do nothing to describe the real people behind them, but does get to the essence of our characters. I genuinely like my siblings. They are all well-mannered, even Mike, painfully honest though he is.
Last night I went to the Divine Cup for the first time. The interior all 60s art-deco, soft pecan wood finish behind the coffee bar, metal hand railing, inlaid colored marble floor, rugs, vinyl cushion seats, coffee tables. Halloween night and there are a lot of young people around because this place doesn't serve alcohol, it being associated with the Salvation Army although not overtly religious. And I sit there people watching, alone. Esther dropped me off and went back homeward to do laundry. Agreed to meet me there or at the Irish Rose later. But here at the Divine Cup there is nobody reading poetry, but I spy the stool and microphone stand. Ask the coffee guy, what up with the open mic? He said nobody showed up to participate. Well, I'm here, I say. Can I just go do my thing? He clicks a button and I'm live. Got the bass voice booming. A brief introduction and it's off to the poems. I read four of 'em, including a Halloween poem I just wrote.
Friendly applause when I'm done and I go sit back down. A group of teenagers, one of only two groups of people in da whole place, come over and we rap. There's two Sarahs, one dressed as a prom queen, the other as a ballerina, an effeminate dude, Gabriel, who wants to move to New York and be a fashion designer. He did an expert sewing job on the bodice that one of the Sarahs is wearing. And I ask them about their dreams and hopes and future plans. And they show me their photo albums, some very artsy cool gothic/victorian, basic, but full of promise and attention to detail. I was impressed. But so strange to be the wise old sage. They hung on my every word. My poetry gained me entry into their younger world. And their kindness puts a lift in my step when I leave for the Rose.
Susan's working when I arrive, and I sit at the bar. Guy sitting next to me, Mike, turns out he is here to take over the family business, Dean's Foods. Came from Fort Myers, Fla. Wealth, real estate. Dad died Wednesday. Heart attack age 61. Mike's really bummed and I listen to him talk about how close he was to his dad because of the business, dad was his best friend in high school...etc. He buys me a beer. Then Esther shows up and he disappears. Leaves a barely sipped on beer. Gone, like that. Like his Dad. And we are connected by the business. Many childhood memories of going to Dean's Food with my mother to pick up wholesale foods for her catering business and restaurant. Now that business is his. He's slightly overweight, scar on chin, straight-laced, gold-band watch, single man, but sad about dad. Glad I watched the World Series with my old man. You just never know.
Inevitably, Shawn Robinson shows up. And he's with his friend, Dave. Dave sells cars at Napleton's Autowerks, where we bought our Honda Civic. He tells us the old man, Richard, who sold us our car, got fired because he beat up another salesman. Kicked his ass. Quite impressive, Dave said, for an old man. And a pastor at that, speaking about loving God and all that. Guess he got all Old Testament fire and brimstone on that salesman.
But Dave starts talking about this new $45,000 death box convertible he bought two days ago, and how he will only drive it on the weekends. And tells about his trips around the world this year: Russia, Sweden, Finland, etc. The whole tour bit. Got pulled up onstage at a Russian folk festival. The white boy dance in front of thousands. Then when he's got to pay for his beer he gets outraged when he discovers it's $5.65 for a Bass draft. And I agree that's expense, but caveat emptor. But he goes on and on about it. Embarrassing. Typical money-centric mindset. Guess that's how you acquire wealth, with such nitpicking. And I think about the Dean's Food mogul clutching his chest and slumping over. All that unspent dough. All that industry and acquisition and effort. For what? Too much hassle. Look what it leads to. Worry and gray hairs and this false sense of control over fate and your own little corner of existence. Money is false conceit.
The last couple days I've worked as a substitute teacher at Kishwaukee Elementary School. Enjoyed my stint as a gym teacher, kick ball and the Darwinian rules of the playground, passivity and aggression. The PE teacher's office is hot, and there's a coil water heater tied to the ceiling, iron and painted silver, all filigreed, and I can feel the heat of it radiating down to the top of my head. Beautiful old school. All dark-stained wood and polished tile floors. Well kept up in its old age. Brick and asphalt. A beacon surrounded by squalor. And so refreshing to be around the honest beautiful children. Just let the kindergarten and first grade classes go nuts with a variety of toys -- bouncy balls, jump ropes, the ring with a ball tied to a string that you swing around your ankle, rollers, cup stilts, styrofoam stilts, red dodge balls, basketballs, hula hoops. Craziness, chaos, in half hour segments. But for the most part kids are well-behaved. Third and fourth graders played kickball. Another case of chaos barely contained. Difficult to get outs, so I counted out 10 kickers before making 'em switch. Didn't keep score. Would have been too hard to keep track.
And tonight is Friday, usually a good time go out and get wild kind of night. But my early aerobic 5:40 a.m. rise and work crew leader tomorrow morning keep the debauch at bay. Maybe tomorrow night. I've drank beer this week, but never more than two at a time. Might slam 4-5-6 tomorrow. We'll see. I'm not so much the partier as I enter the respectable 30s.
Been a good week. Steady work, except for Tuesday, two open stages (one sucky, one good) and a poetry reading. Spreading the word. Spreading the love. Feeding ego and love of performance, even if venues are insignificant and applause can be measured by single clap noises. Every avalanche starts with a single flake.

Here's my journal entry from Halloween night:

For the last couple days I have substitute taught physical education at old brick Kishwaukee Elementary School in south Rockford near downtown, two blocks away from an eyesore public housing tract. Some of the classes are entirely asian, Thai, I think, because the secretary in the front office has a Thai-English dictionary on her desk.

I like this age group. They call me Mr. G. I try to smile and not be too much of a hardass. There's a whistle hanging on the light switch in the regular teacher's office. I leave it, as much for the cootie factor as I hate being martial. I'm subbing for another dago, Mr. Pirrello.

Today is Halloween and the kiddies are all full of mischief and energy. Instead of trying to orderly corral them into any organized activity I give them free reign and just hand out big blue bouncy balls, four-wheeled rollers, hula hoops, basketballs, jump rope and these styrofoam stilt thingies. Keep the peace, deflect queries to go get a drink or the bathroom, crying children he hit me with the basketball Mr. G!!!

The afternoon was easy as the last two classes I was supposed to teach didn't show up because of a Halloween party. The entire school body, some 300 students, paraded around the school yard. The yard bordered by a tall fence and on the other side dilapidated housing, dark windows, tall weeds. Leading the students is a tall, spooky rubber-masked satan in crimson garb, scared even me.

On yet another co-opted pagan holiday
in this lit age where no one knows the cycle of the moon
I think about what really scares me
that old surety, death, yeah
but not satan who is too familiar
and certainly not the silent dead
becoming dirt
it's no fun being a naturalist
where all is reduced to its role
in the food chain
and mysticism, mystery, religions
are explained away by tight
superior sociological theorems
And that's what scares me
these mad machine scientists
prometheus unbound
palm pilots and cell phones
complexity for its own sake
cold tile bleached walls
covering the smell of death
with oil and formaldehyde
give me covens, demons
midnight seances
blasphemous utterances
werewolves, vampires
cobwebs and mildew
Much prefer superstitions
of the fearful conscious torch-carrying villagers
than the blind cold fury
of this rational, capital age